The Books on My Bookshelf 2019

favorite books of 2019Had you told 13 year-old Peter Witkowski that he would be reading thousands of pages every year, his eyes would have rolled upward and his mouth would have broken into a sarcastic laugh.  Despite my youthful misgivings and limited prophetic abilities, I have come to love books. I count them as some of my truest friends. They have guided, encouraged, and challenged my heart and mind.

Given my academic studies and profession, my tastes unapologetically bend towards history and theology. Though I read a good deal of academic literature, I have found such literature to possess an engaging sense of readability. Below are the three books that most prominently snuck into my conversations with April Witkowski and a few others in 2019. Though all are not academic in nature, I found all of them to be enjoyable reads.

George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father

Thomas Kidd

51OpXIDSonL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)

“With apologies to the Beatles, George Whitefield was the first “British sensation.” The missionary to Georgia quickly outgrew the confines of his Savannah assignment and metamorphosed into the first great American preacher. He profoundly shaped the America Christianity as he preached to overflowing churches, challenged other pastors to preach the doctrines of grace, denounced the faculties of Harvard and Yale for their lack of spiritual vigor, and employed the technology of the printing press with unprecedented skill. Since his death, historians have either stomped upon the preacher’s grave in frustration or have desecrated his memory by pulling out one or two choice biblical lessons that ignore the scope of his life and ministry. Kidd attempts to avoid both extremes. He explores and defends Whitefield’s robust faith, giving credence to the preacher’s spiritual believes and experiences. But Kidd also wrestles with Whitefield’s faults, chronicling his odd (and at times comical) interactions with women, his self-awarded sense of grandeur, and his promotion of slavery. Kidd provides readers with a sympathetic and honest presentation of the first “British sensation”

Whitefield may have adopted modern marketing and communication methods, then, but his message was traditional and Calvinist. Instead of softening his view on the depravity of man in response to humanitarian critics, he emphasized original sin more. Whitefield spoke regularly of how people in their lost state became “sunk into the nature of the beast and the devil.

America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation

Grant Wacker

41Yg0Q1QhxL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Readers who engage Grant Wacker’s book will discover a wealth of insights into the depth of breath of Billy Graham’s influence over America. Wacker looks at how southern culture, the civil rights, the economy, and many other factors shaped Graham and were shaped by him. While Wacker paints an endearing picture of Graham’s heart for reaching the lost, the author also deals with the pragmatic realities of Graham’s life and ministry, discussing how Graham worked with Mormons, interacted with racists, and formed an almost monolithic support base middle-class, white evangelicals. Those seeking to understand the many and varied ways Billy Graham’s life has shaped their culture will find Wacker’s book to be a fascinating and beneficial read.

To say that Graham possessed an uncanny ability to adopt trends in the wider culture and then use them for his evangelistic and moral-reform ability purposes is another way of saying he possessed an uncanny ability to speak both for and to the times. Speaking for required him to communicate in a registrar his listeners could hear. He legitimated their social location by guaranteeing that their values would count…Yet…he spoke to them as well. He helped shape their consciousness…Speaking to Americans mean that he challenged them to live up to their self-professed values of biblical equality, moral integrity, and social compassion.

Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat

Giles Milton

51GYXwSUOBL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)

Prior to World War 2, to be British was to be one who championed “decency and fair play.” But as the Nazi military machine filled Europe with death, Winston Churchill decided to liberate the British army from her people’s high sense of morality. The Prime Minister empowered Cecil Clarke, Colin Gubbins and others to research and deploy the dirtiest tools of warfare. The stories that follow appear more fanciful than the tale of Beau Geste. Yet these stories arise not from Milton’s imagination but from the British National Archives. Readers cannot help but be drawn into the tales of misfiring rockets that became for the first anti-tank weapons, daring assignation attempts that snuffed out hated Nazi leaders, and commandos raids that resulted in ships disappearing into the night. As author P.C. Wren noted in 1926, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Milton has rediscovered this maxim afresh, providing his readers with a fantastic read. In addition to chronicling the spies’ bravado, Milton found ways to discuss the humanity of his subjects, weaving details into his book about how their sixteen hour days and long alcohol filled nights strained marriages, enhanced their grief, and resulted in a tank being driven to church. Milton has put together a compelling string of stories that reveal both the strategic benefits and the human cost of Churchhill’s ungentlemanly warfare.

A Ministry of Ungentlemanly warfare. If its name was amusing, its role was anything but. It was to subvert the conventions of war – punch below the belt…Any German target, however soft, was to be considered fair game, and no weapon was to be considered off limits. “This from of activity was of the very highest importance.’ Said Churchill.

Parenting: Book Review

parentingI once had a parent look at me confused. I had asked him to trace his parenting practices back to the Bible. Sure, he could point to Ephesians 6:4 and could allude to principles laid out in Deuteronomy 6, Colossians 3, and Psalm 76. But for him and for the many other parents who’ve been worn down by the daily grind of parenting, these passages feel like far too little far too late. We feel that the Bible is far removed from our experience.

And, we do not need another verse or five-step program. We need a holistic biblical solution that addresses our complex parenting needs and the complex needs of our kids with the entirety of the Bible.

Thankfully, we now have resource that will help us do just that. Sensing that parents like you and me were struggling with bringing all of the Scriptures to bear on our parenting, Paul David Tripp wrote the book, (appropriately titled) Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles The Can Radically Change Your Family. In 14 short chapters, Paul David Tripp lays out the grand scriptural principles that every parent needs to grab ahold of as they search for purpose, hope, and rest.

He writes,

Parenting is not first and about what we want for our children or form our children, but about what God in grace has planned to do through us in our children.”

I do not know about you, but I find this idea to be a game changer!

In his book, Paul David Tripp shifts the focus of our parenting from forcing our kids to behave and achieve our goals to the heart of the matter. He leads us away from the things that we cannot control to the responsibilities that God has given us.

Paul David Tripp shows us why our hearts slide into depression, anger, despair, harsh words, and manipulation every time we encounter our kid drawing on the wall. And then, he goes on to reveal how all of the Bible addresses our sinful heart issues and the sinful heart issues of our kids. He show us that the Bible does indeed provide hope and solutions to all of our parenting problems. We will survive if we cling to the Bible.

paul_seated_300Admittedly, not all the Bible is about yelling kids, disrespectful middle schoolers, and lying teenagers. But, all of the Bible is about helping sinners (including parents) overcome their sinful heart issues through the saving power of the cross.

Parenting was never supposed to be reduced down to a few verses. We parents are complex sinful people in need of much grace and instruction. (So are our kids.) To parent well, we need to appeal to the whole counsel of God, which addresses our depression, anger, and every other heart issue the pops up while we tell little Johnny, “NO” for the hundredth time. And it addresses every heart issue that compels our children to be who they are.

Friends, the Bible is fully sufficient for everything that “pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Paul David Tripp reminds us (parents) of this beautiful truth with powerful precision over 224 helpful pages. Of all the parenting and family books I’ve read to date (and I’ve read a lot being parent and preschool and Children’s pastor) this is my favorite.

If you are a parent, or if you are thinking about becoming a parent, or if you simply want to understand your own heart better, I encourage you to read this book. Paul David Tripp has winsomely and powerfully shown us how the Scriptures should radically change and influence the way we parent.

Paul’s Scripture infused words, have both encouraged and rebuked my heart over and over again, blessing my soul and my family.

How about you?  Are you ready to be challenged?

Click here to buy your copy today:

cover1